The Día de Muertos tradition of celebrating the dead derives from pre-Columbian Mexican festivities in which altars – or, ofrendas – adorned with decorative human skulls, marigolds, food, and beverages are assembled by family members to honor their dearly departed. Today, the ancestral act of praying for and remembering friends and family members who have died remains integral to Day of the Dead celebrations.
To celebrate this unique tradition in a way that would also support LA’s bartending community, Casa México hosted an exclusive cocktail competition dubbed La Ofrenda by rounding-up a mix of industry stars and rising talent, challenging them to showcase their most impressive Día De Los Muertos-themed cocktails at West Hollywood’s world-famous Employees Only bar. Mindful of current coronavirus guidelines and recommendations, La Ofrenda took place as an intimateinvitation-only occasion. With spacious seating arrangements and an exclusive attendance, the event maintained a perfectly balanced atmosphere of socially-distanced fun.
Transforming their outdoor space into a beautiful patio, Employees Only welcomed our team and insisted we make ourselves at home – and that we did. Complete with an altar dedicated to Casa México’s matriarch, the paternal grandmother of founder Don Buccio.
The competition’s format: six bartenders took turns demonstrating their original cocktails while explaining the genesis and inspiration behind their creations. After each presentation was complete, the audience was treated to a sample pouring. Meanwhile, our panel of judges – founder Don Buccio, president Gina Ruccione, esteemed-partner Oscar De La Hoya, and brand ambassador Melina Meza – were handed the daunting task of scoring each bartender’s cocktail.
Eza Martinez from Tustin, California, brought us “Copa D’Aces” – made with Casa México Añejo, Aperol, allspice, peaches, and tangerine. The presentation of this cocktail was classic and tasteful, beautifully poured into vintage-inspired stemmed glassware, and topped with a dehydrated tangerine slice.
Brad Eston from Long Beach, California, brought us “Mi Suegra Muerta” – made with Casa México Reposado, masa, spices, morita chiles, and mango sherbet. With a wheat stick and corn husk topper, there was no disputing the seasonality of this cocktail despite the use of frozen dessert as an ingredient.
Luis Del Pozo from San Juan Capistrano, California, whipped up “Ofrenda A Mi Amor” – a lively concoction of Casa México Añejo, lemon, orgeat, and cinnamon. The use of marigold garnishing skillfully tied this cocktail together for the day’s celebration.
Max Reis from West Hollywood, California, came to us with a beautiful story about his grandfather and an equally beautiful crusta-inspired cocktail. This simple, understated presentation of Casa México Añejo, Kumquat curaçao, marigold liqueur, and mezcal rinse was complemented with a sugared rim.
Adhel Martinez from Los Angeles, California, wowed our judges and ultimately took home the grand prize with her amazing creation – a fusion of Casa México Reposado, grilled pineapple juice, marigold-infused Bordiga Rosso vermouth, sherry, Cointreau, and a spritz of Café de Olla Absinthe, garnished with marigold florals and served with a personal-sized pan de muerto.
After being announced the winner of La Ofrenda, Adhel said a few words and shared that she had lost a dear friend that very morning, adding that she would be donating her prize money to her friend’s surviving child and family.
Casa México would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated in our inaugural La Ofrendacocktail competition, and add that we look forward to a grander and even more successful event next year.